Review – Batman #26 (DC Comics)

Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mikel Janin
Colours: June Chung
Inks: Mikel Janin
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Release Date: 5th July 2017

The feud that started last issue between the Riddler and the Joker starts to drag in more of Gotham’s citizens as events begin to spiral out of control. Batman does his best to follow the clues, but all he finds in the wake of two mad men’s jokes and riddles is a trail of dead bodies.

Tom King has done a fantastic job of laying the groundwork for a skirmish between two of Batman’s greatest enemies to become a full-on war. Little by little the events have escalated until we can see no way out, and it’s fascinating to watch two of the smarter members of Batman’s rogue gallery go up against each other. Typically someone will come after Batman or one of his allies and we know that the good guy will always walk a fine line and attempt to win without letting the chaos spill out onto the streets, but with two villains, especially these two villains, all bets are off! There is a palpable sense of foreboding in King’s writing, a danger that could shake even Batman to his core.

Mikel Janin is on art this issue and his style suits the noir-like narrative completely. Realism is adhered to for the most part which only makes the violence all the more disturbing. The is something extremely upsetting about the Joker when he isn’t smiling, a real air of menace that we know brings a different kind of horror with it. That isn’t to say that anyone else in the book is given any less attention – far from it, in fact. Bruce as ever stands over the corpses of one person after another, stoic, brooding and imposing. The Riddler, saunters around like a peacock feeling himself superior to everyone he comes across.

June Chung brings a dark book like this to life by feeding it with an equally dark colour palette. Even the daylight panels carry an oppressive feel. Chung really understands what the book’s narrative and pencil work call for and she answers in equal measure.  This feels every bit the detective story, and is coloured as such. When the colour does try to shine through there is a layer of darkness already attempting to cover it up.

We already know what King can do when he pits a hero against a villain or a hero against a hero but this is something new and exciting. We have seen tales with former villains battling current ones but to have two of the most intelligent and dangerous bringing their A game against each other is truly unprecedented. As this issue falls somewhere in the middle of the main arc, the pace does feel a little slower, but we are clearly building up and escalating with each chapter, so that is to be expected at this stage.

Despite this being part two of an ongoing arc, I do feel that there is enough in the writing to help new readers catch up almost immediately. It would be helpful to know why the Joker and Riddler are at each other’s throats but in the end, it isn’t as important as the fact that they are. I will be very interested to see how this all pans out and just what horrors await those who are caught in the crossfire between two of Gotham’s most dangerous residents.

Rating: 4/5.

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The writer of this piece was: Dave MacPhail
Dave Tweets from @ShinKagato

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